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The Washington Wizards (23-19) have been a mess away from the friendly confines of Verizon Center all season, but they snapped out of their road funk and captured a 113-110 victory over the New York Knicks (19-25) at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
However, the win didn’t come without some tense moments.
Although the Wizards led by 14 points after three quarters, the Knicks outscored them 24-13 in the fourth. Washington nearly coughed the game up when its offense suddenly stalled following a blistering first few frames.
But thanks to John Wall—who grabbed a defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast to put the Wizards up by three with 13.7 seconds remaining—Washington survived and captured its fourth straight win:
Wall put the Knicks in a blender from start to finish, and the clutch transition play illustrated his dominance on a night when he posted 29 points, 13 assists, five rebounds and three steals.
Wall was flanked by a slew of supplementary double-figure scorers, with Otto Porter Jr. standing out among that group. The fourth-year forward poured in 23 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including 6-of-10 from three, and he’s now drilled 15 shots from beyond the arc over his last three games.
Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 34 points, while Kristaps Porzingis returned from a four-game Achilles-related absence to score 15 points—including an emphatic putback slam during the Knicks’ big fourth-quarter comeback—in 29 minutes off the bench:
Defense was more of a suggestion than a requirement Thursday night, and that became clear during a first half that featured the beginnings of an epic duel between Wall and Anthony.
Washington’s floor general—who ranks among the league’s most proficient pick-and-roll ball-handlers, according to NBA.com—repeatedly knifed his way through New York’s defense with aplomb, and he entered halftime with 13 points and 10 dimes.
Wall’s mastery of the pick-and-roll was especially clear in the first quarter when he found a diving Marcin Gortat with a pinpoint pocket pass:
Pretty pass, Mr. Wall pic.twitter.com/NXpPUv4f7Y
— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) January 20, 2017
The Knicks needed an answer on the other end for Wall’s swishing and dishing, and Anthony answered the call.
A night after the Boston Celtics held him to 13 points, Anthony erupted for a franchise-record 25 points in the second quarter alone:
In the midst of Melo’s scorching start, Yahoo Sports’ Dan Devine noted that while he hasn’t played at an All-Star level this year, Anthony is still capable of putting his team on his shoulders when he gets hot:
Carmelo Anthony shouldn’t be an All-Star starter.
Locked-in Carmelo Anthony remains one of the most naturally gifted scorers on the planet.
— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) January 20, 2017
However, Carmelo fell back to earth, scoring a single point in the third quarter.
That was bad news for the Knicks, who had no answer for Porter in catch-and-shoot situations, as the NBA on TNT documented:
Otto Porter Jr. found his touch from 👌, hitting four in the 3Q!
Has 21 Pts and is 6-for-8 from deep pic.twitter.com/pBgTNWwMLd
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) January 20, 2017
Hoops scribe Jared Dubin pointed to the Wall-Porter two-man game as one of the big reasons for the Knicks’ struggles after the break:
Just like last WAS-NYK game, John Wall is getting wherever he wants. And Otto, as Wall said pregame, is “shooting the piss out of the ball.”
— Yaya Dubin (@JADubin5) January 20, 2017
The Wizards rode their combined efforts to a cushy lead through 36 minutes, and while the Knicks nearly erased that deficit in the waning seconds, Scott Brooks’ squad finally proved capable of pulling out a close one in hostile territory.
Now owners of five road wins on the season, the Wizards will attempt to keep things rolling Saturday when they travel to the Motor City for a meeting with the Detroit Pistons.
The Knicks, who are 3-8 in January, will also be back in action Saturday when the Phoenix Suns pay a visit to MSG.
After the win, Brooks reflected on his team’s resolve, as shown by Fox Sports Radio 1340 on Twitter:
Scott Brooks post game #DCfamily pic.twitter.com/vQRbZWVFX2
— FOX Sports Radio1340 (@1340AMFOXSports) January 20, 2017
Brooks also praised Porter, who stayed scalding with six three-pointers in his second straight game: “Otto is developing into the deadly three-point shooter we know that he can be,” he said, according to SB Nation’s Kristian Winfield.
As for Wall, Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek admitted his closing unit had trouble containing Wall with the game on the line.
“We didn’t handle it very well,” he said, per the Knicks’ official Twitter account. “He had too much space. He has great control over his body.”
As for New York’s final possession, shooting guard Courtney Lee told reporters he passed up a potential game-tying three because he was distracted by a Wizards assistant, per Winfield:
Courtney Lee says a sly tactic from a Wizards assistant coach tricked him into thinking he had help on the last possession. pic.twitter.com/UhwGIT9JQK
— Kristian Winfield (@Krisplashed) January 20, 2017
But ultimately, Lee pointed to the timing of the Knicks’ late run for their inability to close things out.
“We waited a little too long to press on the gas in the fourth quarter,” he said, per the team’s official Twitter account.